This is the title of a new documentary on high school education in the US. I haven’t seen it yet but I watched Larry King on CNN a while ago now paying a lot of attention to it. It got me thinking about my teachers. Here is a rundown of the good and not so good.
Mr Claus was my physics teacher in 3rd and 4th grade (age 14 and 15). He seemed more into guns than into teaching us physics. Gun ownership and fascination is very unusual in The Netherlands but he was often talking about his gun club and the weapons he had licenses for. There were many rumored stories about him. The school building was a concatenation of wooden buildings (a source of many other anecdotes for a future blog entry) and so one rumor was that one of the holes in the wall of his classroom was a bullet hole. And that once he shot the headlight off a student’s bicycle. The rumors conflicted in whether he ‘merely’ pointed the gun or actually fired it. Needless to say by the end of 4th grade we were seriously behind on the physics teaching program. But Lady Fortune smiled upon us and our next physics teacher was:
Together with Sanders (see further down) the best teacher I have had. He inherited our group at the start of 5th grade and quickly realized he had a big problem getting us ready for the exams at the end of 6th grade. He basically had 1 1/2 years to make up the slack of the previous two years. But he pulled it off! He was energetic, motivating, fun, a great storyteller and just a very good explainer. He managed to motivate this bunch of teenagers to give up free afternoons and weekends for extra class hours.
Bödicker is also the source for my love of photography. The school had a darkroom and a little photo club. I joined and had a great time learning to take photographs, develop the film and make prints. During winter time he would organize ice skating trips. He is in the picture above, standing at the left.
Lübeck and Ecstady (sp?)
My two chemistry teachers. One year we would have Mr Lübeck, the next Mrs Ecstady (not sure that’s her name exactly…). Both were quite good. My main struggle was that I understood inorganic chemistry but not organic chemistry. For some reason our textbook alternated these chapters so one test I would do great, the next…
My teacher for German class one year. He was not very good. An elderly man and just not all that good in interacting with children. His teaching skills were a bit limited too. He would explain everything with one and the same sentence about Kartoffeln (potatoes). Yvonne had him too one year, maybe she remembers the sentence?
Speaking of one sentence teachers, Mrs Struick was my English teacher in 2nd grade. She would explain everything with either “I have lived here for five years”, or “Yesterday I bought a book.” Beyond that I don’t remember much about her.
My English teacher from 4th to 6th grade. Very strict and difficult to approach but an excellent teacher. He tried very hard to get me interested in Dickens and Shakespeare. For our exams we had to read at least one book from before 1850. I chose a play by Shakespeare. During the oral exam he asked about it. I said that I read it all to the end but didn’t much understand it. Hofwegen then spent most of the oral exam explaining the story to me.
I’m pretty sure Mr Hofwegen knew that I helped my best friend Joan during tests (we had an elaborate foot tapping system). During the written exams he put us in opposite corners of the class room.
Years later, living in England, my friend Susan and I tried to work out which play it was. We eventually concluded it must have been The Merchant of Venice.
My German teacher in 2nd grade. Our 2nd grade group was unruly and not very pleasant. Boschma was very young and this was her first or second year teaching. We harangued her so much that a few times she would run out the class room crying. It seemed funny at the time but I am embarrassed about it since. I’ve not yet had an opportunity to apologize to her. Needless to say we didn’t learn much German that year and I failed the grade miserably.
Ahh Mr Westerbeek. Bit of a mixed bag. He was Yvonne’s math teacher before me. Yvonne and math were not friends. Also my oldest sister, Marja, didn’t enjoy the subject very much. And so Westerbeek was convinced that the third child wouldn’t be good at it either. Which was true till the second trimester of 3rd grade. In the third trimester the coin dropped for me and suddenly I understood how it all stuck together. Eventually he and I got along just fine even while he once declared in class: “If you don’t understand it then I don’t know know how to explain it to you.”
My French teacher for two years. Here being the youngest played out much better. Yvonne was (is?) excellent at French and so mr Roth believed I was too giving me minimally a B by default. I never saw a good reason to disagree with him and inform him otherwise.
He taught Dutch and was also the deputy head of the department, a bit fierce. The year before I always got excellent grades for essays, different teacher, but he rated my writing differently. Took me a while to work out what he liked and then was back at A’s again. During the final exam he asked me why I put Het Dwaallicht by Elsschot on my list. I explained that Yvonne had read it too, liked it much and recommended the book to me. “And, “ mr Nobel observed, “it keeps the excerpt in the family.” Yes, that too :-).
My linear algebra teacher. As mentioned above excellent at it. I loved how he talked about algebra, the exercises he gave us, and how he prepared us for our exams. The day of the first test during our final exams was an off-day for me and I scored not very good. He was perhaps more disappointed and surprised than I was and motivated me to pull up my average overt the next two tests.
And lastly, Politiek
History teacher who was rumored to have an affair with another history teacher (forgot her name). Ahh, the high school intrigues!
Over the years I changed my opinion of mr Politiek. At school and for some year after I thought he was great. But since then I came to realize that his teachings were rather colored by his political views. Ironic no, seeing his last name?